French people

Lu French, Co-Owner of Northshire Bookstore and Renaissance Woman, Known for Her Many Interests and Kindnesses | Local News

MANCHESTER — Lu French had a saying: “If you want something done right, ask the busiest person you know.”

For so many, that person was French, who died Monday at the age of 59 after a long battle with cancer.

The French family is holding a public memorial service at the Southern Vermont Arts Center — a place near and dear to them — at 2 p.m. Sunday. A reception will then be held at the Silver Fork, housed in the former Mark Skinner Library – the building whose restoration she designed when the couple bought it at auction in 2019.

Described by many as an energetic and generous Renaissance woman, French was the wife of Clark French for 30 years, mother of three, successful businesswoman, yoga teacher and generous philanthropist in two communities – Manchester and the great Vero Beach, Florida. The couple bought the Northshire Bookshop from the Morrow family last year.

On Tuesday afternoon, Clark French was full of stories about his wife and gratitude for the outpouring of support from the community as she spent her final days at home in hospice care. The family received literally hundreds of cards, and Lu was able to read them and visit friends and loved ones before he died, he said.

“She made me a better person every day,” he said. “She instilled strength, empathy and kindness in our children, allowing us to move forward without her with confidence and grace.”

Miami native, born to Cuban immigrants, Lu French was an author, self-taught designer, gardener, clinical pharmacist with a Ph.D. from the University of Florida, and composer. An art book she composed and published last year, based on an art exhibit celebrating women of all backgrounds in the Vero Beach area, has raised funds for a community center in Gifford, in Florida.

Then there were the businesses Lu and Clark French owned or invested in throughout their stay here: Breathing Room Yoga Studio, Village Picture Shows, the Kimpton Taconic Hotel, the Reluctant Panther Inn, the Silver Fork, and , more recently, the Northshire Bookshop. And that doesn’t include their successful real estate business in Florida, in which Lu French was the designer and visionary of the beachfront homes the couple built and sold in Vero Beach and Palm Beach, Florida, as well as in Mexico and Jamaica.

“She was one of those people involved in many different types of endeavors,” Clark French said. “Someone may have known her through yoga but didn’t know she was in business. Some people may have seen her at the bookstore and didn’t know she was at the Manchester Garden Club .

Despite the health struggle she faced, the last two years of Lu French’s life were a whirlwind.

“Literally, during the pandemic and while she was battling cancer, she started, wrote, and published a book,” Clark French said. “She took over and restored and refurbished the Mark Skinner Library in Manchester Village and helped open the Silver Fork. We bought and took over the Northshore Bookstore. All in 18 months.

“Any of those things would have been a lot for most people,” he said. “Still, she managed to juggle all those things. That’s the kind of person she was – always gracious, always kind, incredibly patient.

Clark French said he met Carmen Lourdes Torres – “Lu” is a Cuban nickname for Lourdes – in Baltimore 33 years ago. “She ran a clinical pharmacy program at Maryland General Hospital. I ran a jazz bar,” he recalls. “We immediately felt connected.”

The couple were married for 30 years – they spent their 30th anniversary together in hospital while she was undergoing treatment – and had three children: Chloe, 36, Christian, 29 and Ian, 25.

Born March 20, 1963, in Miami, to Joaquin and Margarita (Muro) Torres, French earned a doctorate in clinical pharmacy from the University of Florida. She was also an experienced Certified Yoga Teacher (E-RYT) and continuing education provider, with certifications such as the Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health in Stockbridge, Mass.

She is survived by her mother “Cuqui”, her sister Mayra Rodriguez, her brothers Joaquin Torres and Jose Torres and many other family members.

His impact on the community was equally significant, friends said Tuesday.

Close friend Leslie Keefe learned French when their children became friends at Manchester Elementary Middle School. She said she and her husband Brian Keefe, as well as Joe and Christine Miles, have formed close ties with the French family.

“She had such a passion for life, but she was also so generous with her time and treasure, whether it was volunteering or helping a cause,” Leslie Keefe said. French was among the volunteers who helped create the music and Spanish programs at MEMS, and helped raise funds when Bill 60 threatened deep budget cuts at the school.

“She was always so tolerant and loving towards everyone. She was just an exceptional person,” Keefe said. “It’s a huge loss. It’s such a void.

“As a long-time vital member of the Manchester community, she has dedicated her time and energy to many local non-profits and has been responsible for some of our city’s most iconic projects, businesses and organisations. “said John Burnham, executive director of the Manchester Business Association. “With her passion and dedication to our community, she touched so many lives. … She will be greatly missed but will always be in our hearts, minds and fondest memories.

Taconic Music founders Ariel Rudiakov and Joana Genova met Lu French when she took piano lessons from Rudiakov’s mother. She was chair of the Taconic Music board at the time of her death, and Rudiakov said the upcoming season will be dedicated to her memory.

“It was an unprecedented creative spirit,” Rudiakov said. “Someone who channeled spirituality, not in an organized religious sense – just someone who found the beauty in so much and expressed it directly.

“There was always an elegance – a high standard in the way things were presented and a tremendous attention to detail on both sides,” he added.

At Burr and Burton Academy, French served as a substitute Spanish teacher and served on the board of trustees.

Lu French was small, but mighty,” said Burr and Burton Academy principal Mark Tashjian. She touched so many lives in so many ways. Pharmacist, designer, decorator, entrepreneur, visionary, yoga teacher, mother, wife… it’s hard to imagine someone with such varied talents. And, most important of all, she was filled with love. The world lost a really, really good one [Monday] night.”